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New York Yankees Aaron Judge tells his story to Long Island kids

Outfielder Aaron Judge at Yankee Stadium with Kidsday

Outfielder Aaron Judge at Yankee Stadium with Kidsday reporters, from left, Andrew Galligan, Nicholas Cortese, Colin Richards and Jared Valluzzi. Credit: Newsday / Pat Mullooly

We met New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge before a recent home game and talked with him in the dugout.

What was your reaction last year when you received the call that you were going to the big leagues?

It was unreal. I had dreamed of that moment when I was a kid. I get the call, and my family was with me. It was a pretty emotional day. It was something special.

You were a star in football, baseball and basketball. What motivated you to stick with baseball?

That’s a good one. I just fell in love with the game at a young age. I loved being on the field with my friends, and I just fell in love with America’s pastime.

What would you say was the most memorable moment in your major league career so far?

I would say my debut. I got to see Tyler Austin hit a home run, and I got up right behind him and did the same thing. It was a pretty special moment. Me and Tyler are pretty good friends, and all the hard work we have put in throughout the years, and then make it to the major leagues and then get a home run in the first at bat, it was pretty awesome.

In 2010, you were selected by the Oakland A’s, and you opted out. What led you to make that decision?

It was a tough decision. I was chosen in the draft, but my parents kind of helped me out with that decision. They reminded me that education is really important, and you need your education so that you have something to fall back on once you are done playing sports. For me it is kind of a no-brainer after talking to your parents. They said I would have a good time playing four years at the university and maybe you will get drafted again — you never know.

Why did you choose uniform number 99?

My first time on a major league club in spring training was that number on the jersey they gave me. I think any time the New York Yankees give you a jersey, you are not going to turn it down. They gave it to me, and I stuck with it.

Every time you step out onto the field, what pumps you up or motivates you?

Every time I go out here to stretch I look around here at Yankee Stadium, and I get the chance to be on this field and play a game that I love. It is just awesome. I look around the stadium and I see the fans, and I just soak it all in. It really motivates me.

How do you react when you hear all the boos?

I don’t mind it. For the most part, I just try to tune everything out and I try to focus on what I have to do.

So what hits you internally when you hit one of your monster home runs?

I am glad I made contact, I am glad I hit it, and I am glad I put a run on the board. And I hope I help my team win a baseball game. It’s pretty cool.

What advice would you give to younger baseball players?

Have fun. It is a tough game, but always have fun, but always work hard. Always run out the base hits, always hustle on the field — those are the two most important things. If you play the game hard, good things are going to happen.

In the clubhouse who is the biggest jokester?

Brett Gardner. He is always playing jokes or he is always making us laugh here in the dugout during the games. He makes it fun to be a part of this team.

What is the key to your success?

For me, it is always my teammates. My teammates are so good, and I am so blessed to be on this team. My teammates are always getting on base for me and they are putting pressure on the opposing team. I am just going up there and trying to do my part. For me, it is about feeding off the other players on my team.

Other than Yankee Stadium what would be your favorite stadium to play in?

Fenway Park, where the Red Sox play. It is quite an atmosphere. The crowd is so into the game — they are always yelling.

What advice would you give to your 13-year-old self looking back now?

You guys have some good questions! Always have fun playing the game and keep working hard. I always dreamed about being a major league player, but you never know what can happen, so it is important to work hard at whatever you are doing.

How were you able to stay so motivated when you were in the minor leagues?

You seem so far away when you are in the minors and the lower levels, but I think what motivated me was my love for the game. I just love getting out there and playing baseball. They could have paid me two bucks, and I still would have played. It is fun playing with the other guys and playing a sport that I love.

When you are not playing baseball, what do you like to do in your off time?

I love playing video games. I love working out.

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